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AWADmail Issue 512

A Weekly Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Tidbits about Words and Language

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Interesting stories from the net

Analyzing Shakespeare's Plays with Wolfram|Alpha
Wolfram|Alpha Blog

Spanish Is Faster Than English, But Mandarin Is Slow
Scientific American

AP's Approval of "Hopefully" Symbolizes Larger Debate Over Language
The Washington Post

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Crash blossoms

Here are a few selections from readers' take on ambiguous newspaper headlines formed using this week's words. And if you still need more after that, check out these two books:
Squad Helps Dog Bite Victim and Other Flubs from the Nation's Press and Red Tape Holds Up New Bridge.

Paragoned Au Pair Gone with Prized Paragon
Milo Grika, St. Paul, Minnesota (milo grika.com)

Burgled Jeweller Schlimazel without Paragon
Josef Beautrais, Wellington, New Zealand (jbeautrais gmail.com)

For 'paragon', just the word would be sufficient if you lived in Adelaide, South Australia. The River Para is a small waterway north of the City and, like much of the rest of the State, is subject to regular dry spells and, therefore, drying up. Just the headline "Para Gon" could well indicate one of these periodic drying up occasions.
Ron Hann, Christchurch, New Zealand (snablats2003 yahoo.com.au)

In keeping with political cynicism:
Paragon of Virtue Lies in State
Penny Randolph, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts (prandol verizon.net)

Hollywood Countenances Plastic Surgery Failures
Don Lee, St. Paul, Minnesota (donelee visi.com)

Tanker Spill Cleaned Up But Spectators Tarry
Lilian Barber, Murrieta, California (iggylil earthlink.net)

Motorists Tarry on Newly Surfaced Motorway
Ailsa Paterson, Ville d'Avray, France (ailsap wanadoo.fr)

Br'er Rabbit Sticks with Tarry Friend
Jim Scarborough, Cary, North Carolina (jimes hiwaay.net)

Questionable La Brea Development Proposals Tarry
Aaron McKeon, Syracuse, New York (aaronjmckeon gmail.com)

Man Threatens Suicide by Jumping Off Cliff; Is It A Bluff?
N. Taxman, Round Rock, Texas (ttaxman003 juno.com)

The following are not based on this week's words, but they are still interesting: Mathematicians Face Division in New Exam Plans
Genius Toddler Spells Disaster for Parents
Paranormal Books Fly Off Shelves
Karen Sheard, London, UK (karen_she yahoo.com)

US Air Strikes Deal With AMR's Unions
At first I thought the Air Force was using air strikes to deal with the unions. Then I thought there was a labor strike at US Airways. It turns out that strike is being used as verb and US Airways struck a deal with AMR's unions (link).
Eric Rubin, Bedford, Virginia (erubin mindspring.com)

This is from a for-real newsletter from my health insurance company just received today:
Catch oral cancer while it's still treatable!
Gerry Visel, Illinois (gcvisel gmail.com)

I write headlines for a living and know well the perils of double-duty words camouflaged as alternative parts of speech. A friend of mine (inadvertently) wrote one of my favorite examples ever, on a story about the murdered second wife of a man who'd been suspected but never charged in the death of his first wife. The story focused on the testimony of a witness who said the second wife had confided that she suspected her husband in her predecessor's demise, and even thought he might do her in, too. The headline was:
Slain Wife Expected to Die
Julie Lipkin, Falmouth, Massachusetts (julon comcast.net)

My favourite headline accompanied a photo a few years ago. It showed our State political leaders, at the time, on a podium sheltering under umbrellas. They were there to launch the Adelaide Festival of the Arts. The headline said:
Big Drips Spoil Opening
Russ Talbot, Adelaide, Australia (russted internode.on.net)

My late husband and I were both school teachers during our working lives. Your phrase 'Teacher strikes idle kids' reminded me of times when we were doing end of year reports to be taken home by the pupils. A phrase which very often came to mind was:
This child is trying!
Margaret Dunton, New Zealand (mard xtra.co.nz)

This week's challenge reminds me of a favorite creative writing exercise from middle school, oh-so-many years ago. Our teacher brought actual newspaper headlines; we were to compose the articles. My chosen assignment:
Children Improve After Poisoning
You can guess where a warped young mind took this article. Thanks for bringing back the fun memory!
Doug Shelton, San Diego, California (doug sheltonfamily.org)

A classic is one relating to Michael Foot, British Labour party politician. When he was put in charge of a nuclear disarmament group The Times ran this headline:
Foot Heads Arms Body
Patricia McKenna, Maynooth, Ireland (PMcKenna alchemysoftware.com)

When Ivan Lendl (Czechoslovakia) was defeated by Pat Cash in 1987 Wimbledon Tennis, a newspaper in the Middle East reported:
Czech Cashed!
Suresh Nellikode, Burlington, Ontario, Canada (suresh.nellikode gmail.com)

My favorite:
Iraqi Head Seeks Arms
Mark Gealy, Moorhead, Minnesota (gealy cord.edu)

We still laugh about a Seattle newspaper headline from many years ago announcing a speech by the president of Weyerhauser (which turns trees into paper):
Pulp Head Addresses Board
Deirdre McCrary, Seattle, Washington (deirdre_jaymccrary msn.com)

A Canadian newspaper head proclaimed:
PET Ducks Debate
It took me a moment to realize PET referred to Pierre Elliott Trudeau, the prime minister at the time.
Alice Bixler, Summerfield, Florida (alicejb att.net)

My favorite headline, which I've always regretted not clipping and saving, appeared several years ago in the San Francisco Chronicle:
Disabled Fly to See President
The Columbia Journalism Review has been collecting examples of such headlines for years. See here.
Michael K. Stone, San Anselmo, California (mkstone ecoliteracy.org)

This was in the "Everett Herald" in the 1980s:
Sewage Problems Rectified (can't believe that they meant to do that!)
This was in a British paper in the 1990s:
Man Drowns Snapping Wife
What happened there, you ask? Did the old nag finally put him over the brink? Nope, he was standing on the edge of a boat, taking his wife's picture, when he fell backward over the side and drowned!
Ellen Blackstone, Seattle, Washington (ellen 123imagine.net)

One of my favourites is the one announcing the return of General Douglas MacArthur to battle in the Pacific during WWII:
MacArthur Flies Back to Front
Frances Wade, Maldon, Australia (franwade gcom.net.au)

A favorite of mine was from the UC Berkeley paper (Daily Californian) in which I saw a photo of a grim-faced academic beneath the headline:
Poet's Dinner Coming Up
Eric Palson, Concord, New Hampshire (epalson sheerr.com)

My favorite statement of multiple interpretations is:
Ship Sinks Today
Headline or invoice request?
Kenneth Klauss, Los Angeles, California (kklauss earthlink.net)

This reminded me of a poem by Liverpool poet Roger McGough which was supposedly taken from a tabloid headline, which was a brilliant play on words and hesitation:
Tory government unemployment figures
Tory government, unemployment, figures!
Maggie has the whip
We have the cut backs
Wendy Northway, Winsford, UK (wendy.northway btconnect.com)

I remember an ambiguous headline that I saw when I was a child. My recollection is that the story headline had been caught by a newspaper editor and never actually reached the public:
Can't Stand Pat, Says Nixon
Ted Drachman, New York, New York (TLDrach webtv.net)

Supreme Court Justice Stone Dead (link)
Don Eckhardt, Canterbury, New Hampshire (doneck alum.mit.edu)

My favorite headline in a Pittsburgh paper that read:
Hershey Bars Change
I went on to read it wondering why the great candy company would switch recipes only to find out that it was about General Hershey who was against changing the draft laws.
Bernie Lechman, Cumberland, Maryland (bernielechman yahoo.com)

As a former college newspaper editor, I've collected wonderful headlines for years. A few samples:
Long Island Stiffens for Lili's Blow
Would She Climb to the Top of Mr. Everest Again? Absolutely!
Organ Festival Ends in Smashing Climax
Textron Inc. Makes Offer to Screw Company Stockholders
Bill Richardson, Orange, California (billwwr attglobal.net)

Other (in)famous examples (quoted in Leslie Sellars's indispensable Simple Subs Book include:
Giant Waves Down Queen Mary's Funnel
French Push Bottles Up German Rear
Salutary lessons for all sub-editors (UK copy editors)
Bill Henderson, London, UK (bill formandcontent.co.uk)

Email of the Week -- (Brought to you by One Up! -- winning isn't everything. Just kidding!)

From: Julie Ekkers (julie.ekkers wmitchell.edu)
Subject: countenance

One of my first beaus once sent me an arrangement of all pink flowers. The card that accompanied it said something like, "I hope these flowers mirror your countenance." (I gather the florist thought the note was wanting, and advocated for something different, but my would-be beau would not be dissuaded). It took me a bit to figure out what the note said because it tore as I opened the wrapping, obscuring a good portion of the word countenance, and it is true, that it is not often found on notes accompanying flowers (at least in recent decades) so I was rather stumped. Compounding the problem, I think, was this whole idea of hoping the flowers mirrored my face. I reasoned that the flowers were to be pink, which the boy knew, so there was no need to hope that they mirrored my countenance. I thought I must be missing something, but now realize that wooing the grammarian is tricky business indeed! In the end, I found I could not countenance the boy, and we went our separate ways.

Julie Ekkers, St. Paul, Minnesota

From: David W. Fischer (dw-mefischer sbcglobal.net)
Subject: Gloze

A very similar (and non-archaic) word is gloss. I remember a quotation, probably from a use by Martin Gardner, "Wipe your glosses with what you know", which comes from James Joyce's Finnegans Wake.

David W. Fischer, Kalamazoo, Michigan

From: David Brugger (djbonline verizon.net)
Subject: Bluff

Back in 1960s and attending Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, which sits on a bluff overlooking the downtown, it was common for students to say that they went to Duquesne, a university built on a bluff and run on the same principle.

David Brugger, Washington, DC

All words are pegs to hang ideas on. -Henry Ward Beecher, preacher and writer (1813-1887)

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